Friday, October 26, 2012


How ominous.

FTL (Short for Faster Than Light) is a game created by Subset Games and released on September 14th 2012. FTL is a game where you command a ship called “The Kestrel” by default, flying through the galaxy and trying to avoid a group of Rebels who’re hell bent on taking you out due to some crucial information you’re carrying. It is a space travel rogue-like, and has been compared to the old game Star Command. Is FTL a fun and engaging rouge-like?

Hey guys, how're you coming with that fire? Wait, you're just spreading it? I... I don't think that's what I asked you to do...

The graphics of FTL serve their purpose well. The ships are normally brightly colored, and the back rounds accurately reflect the dark recess of space. Ship to ship combat is displayed simply, with your ship on the left side of the screen and the enemy’s on the right. Sometimes you’ll warp into an area with a special condition, which you’ll easily be able to identify by the location’s background. Examples include warping into a purple space storm area, which temporarily knocks out your sensory equipment, or warping too close to a star and being subjected to solar flares, which will lower your shields or damage your ship if the shields aren’t up.

The music in the game serves its purpose. It is not obnoxious, but it’s also not particularly memorable. The sound effects in the game also serve their purpose well, but I would like it if the ship made more annoying emergency noises to indicate that you’re in danger. I think it would add a little cheesy sci-fi trope that many fans of the genre would appreciate.

Can't we just nuke them from space, just to be sure?
The game play is centered around choosing from locations to travel to that are in your immediate vicinity. When you arrive in the new area, various events occur. You could find a fleeing ship who needs assistance, an abandoned space freighter full of supplies, or a passing pirate who wants you to hand over one of your crew members. When you get in combat, which is frequent, you’ll need to prioritize which sections of the enemy’s ship you want to take out. Attack their weapons system so they can’t fight back, or take out their shield so they go down faster? Destroy their life support so all the people inside the ship run out of oxygen, or take out their drone control system so that annoying drone stops shooting at you?

Take that, space pirates! OH GOD WE'RE ON FIRE AGAIN!
But the same rules apply to yourself, and enemies will frequently use the same tactics against you. This is where your crew members come in handy. You can assign each individual person to a certain room, which will slowly raise their experience levels with that system type, providing certain bonuses as they become more experienced at that station. Enemies will sometimes board your ship and start attacking your crew members, which you will eventually have the ability to do yourself. The rooms can also be repaired as they take damage and their systems go down. The hull of the ship cannot be repaired by crew members, but you can find shops and stations throughout the game that will offer this service.

Yay, upgrades! It's like candy for nerds.
You can also upgrade different aspects of your ship, like increasing the ships power reserve, or increasing its available shields or weapons systems, using the materials you pick up from downed ships and special events. You can also buy new ship systems at the shops located around the galaxy, like a drone command station or stealth capabilities. You can also find new crew members, which can be from one of the seven different races contained within the game. Some weapons will require the use of missiles, of which you only have a limited amount of. Missiles will usually be able to pass through enemy shields, making them useful when you need to quickly take out a certain part of a ship. Run out of missiles and you’ll find yourself relying entirely on your energy weapons, which must take down a shield before being able to score direct hits.

Overall FTL is a really fun space rogue-like. It has the same frustrating tropes normally found in this genre, but the game has an easy mode if you want to take the edge of the intense frustration that is often found when finding your hands at the mercy of an unfortunate random event. As you play the game you can unlock different ship designs, and Subset games advertise that you can download user created ship schematics, allowing you to fly through the galaxy as a ship from Star Trek or other popular science fiction shows. The game currently retails for 9.99 and be purchased through Steam or their website. I recommend this game to anyone who enjoys rogue-likes and is comfortable with games that have a steep initial learning curve.

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